Vehicle Overview
Stronger engines are going into Volkswagen’s sporty GTI hatchback, which gets a model realignment for 2002. The GLS and GLX trims are gone, but the available 1.8-liter turbocharged engine gains 30 horsepower and is now rated at 180 hp. A five-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission — said to be the first in its segment — can mate with this engine. Later in the model year, a new 201-hp VR6 V-6 replaced the 174-hp version in the GTI lineup.

Structurally related to the Jetta, VW’s front-wheel-drive Golf hatchback comes with two or four doors, while the GTI is a coupe only. Both were redesigned for 1999. A four-door Golf GL has been added for 2002, and a premium CD/cassette stereo is now standard in the GLS. Standard curtain-type airbags protect the heads of passengers in side collisions.

Volkswagen also has revised its warranties. Instead of the prior two-year/24,000-mile basic coverage and limited 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, VW now offers bumper-to-bumper coverage for four years or 50,000 miles. Wear-and-tear items and adjustments are covered for one year or 12,000 miles. Fully transferable powertrain coverage is for five years or 60,000 miles, and roadside assistance — previously limited to two years — is now for four years or 50,000 miles.

At the New York International Auto Show in March 2002, Volkswagen introduced a special-edition GTI 337. Loosely based on the 25th-anniversary Jetta sold in Germany last year, the GTI 337 name carries a numeral that reaches back to Volkswagen’s heritage. The “337” designation was used as the code for the original Golf of the early 1970s.

To ensure sporty performance, the GTI 337 features 18-inch alloy wheels with Z-rated tires, 16-inch disc brakes and a sport-tuned suspension. The 1.8-liter engine and a six-speed-manual transmission comprise the sole powertrain for the GTI 337, which can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in about 7 seconds. Special styling features include a front chin spoiler, rear valance and spoiler, matching side skirts and darkened taillights. All 1,500 GTI 337 hatchbacks destined for the United States will be painted Reflex Silver and contain a Monsoon sound system, a three-spoke leather-covered steering wheel and Recaro sport seats. On sale since April 2002, the GTI 377 stickers for $22,225.

The Golf hatchbacks and GTI coupe measure 164.9 inches long overall, which is 3 inches shorter than the Ford Focus hatchback and more than 7 inches shorter than Volkswagen’s Jetta sedan. The styling on both models is the same as the Jetta’s, except the Jetta has a longer rear and a regular trunk. The GTI has a sport suspension, fog lights, darkened taillights and 16-inch alloy wheels. Options for the turbocharged GTI 1.8T includes 17-inch tires.

Upright styling allows the driver and passengers to sit more vertically than in most small cars. Space is adequate for four adults, though seating is intended for five. The area behind the rear seats holds 18 cubic feet of cargo. The split rear seatbacks fold for additional storage space, which creates a total of 41.8 cubic feet. Standard equipment includes air conditioning, power door locks, a cassette player and a manual tilt/telescoping steering column. A Leather Package is available for the GTI 1.8T hatchback.

Under the Hood
A 115-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is standard in the Golf GL and GLS. A turbocharged, 150-hp 1.8-liter has been optional, but that has been replaced with a new 180-hp version, which goes into the GTI 1.8T and GTI 337. Diesel-engine fans have the option of a turbocharged, 90-hp, 1.9-liter direct-injection diesel, available in the Golf GL and GLS. The GTI also can be equipped with a 2.8-liter VR6 V-6 engine, which received a boost from 174 hp to 201 hp during the 2002 model year.

Up until now, all engines teamed with a five-speed-manual or four-speed-automatic transmission. A new five-speed automatic with Tiptronic operation is available for the GTI 1.8T, and a six-speed-manual gearbox will be offered with the 201-hp VR6 engine. Volkswagen claims the GTI 1.8T will accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 7.7 seconds. Curtain-type airbags, side-impact airbags and antilock brakes are standard.

Driving Impressions
The Golf hatchback is fun to drive in any form, and it’s versatile enough to be the only automobile for a couple or small family. Its functional design mixes with the car’s European heritage to create a vehicle that has been luring young buyers — in particular — into VW showrooms, even though the Golf/GTI hatchbacks are vastly outsold by Jetta sedans. Not only does the available diesel engine deliver impressive fuel economy, but it’s also surprisingly quiet and brisk.

Most notable for the 2002 model year is the GTI 1.8T, with its new 180-hp engine and Tiptronic transmission. Having so much energy at hand can raise the fun quotient even higher, and this hatchback’s confident handling talents are even more appealing. But be a little wary of the 17-inch tires and sport suspension. Although the GTI 1.8T’s ride doesn’t qualify as punishing, occupants do get tossed around more when the going gets rougher. The ride remains pleasant on smooth pavement, but small imperfections in the road can produce a jolt.

Reported by Jim Flammang  for
From the 2002 Buying Guide